GTAs Largest Hospitality Union Gains LPAT Party Status to Protect Chelsea Hotel and Preserve Toronto’s Convention and Hospitality Sector

TORONTO, Aug. 13, 2018 — UNITE HERE Local 75, the largest representative of hotel workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), recently obtained party status before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in relation to an application by Great Eagle Hotels (Canada) Ltd to redevelop the Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto. Great Eagles’ redevelopment proposal is currently under appeal before Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

The Chelsea Hotel is the largest hotel in Canada offering 1590 rooms for visitors to Toronto. In 2015, an application was filed by Great Eagle Hotels (Canada) Ltd. to change the zoning of the Chelsea Hotel site to permit a mixed-use redevelopment consisting primarily of residential condominium units. In May 2018, Great Eagle reached a settlement with the City of Toronto. As part of this settlement, the redevelopment will be required to include a new hotel containing a minimum of only 400 hotel rooms.  This would represent a loss of nearly 1200 hotel rooms in the heart of Toronto’s downtown.

An LPAT hearing on the merits of the proposed redevelopment is scheduled to commence on October 1, 2018. UNITE HERE Local 75 intends to challenge the settlement reached between Great Eagle and the City of Toronto.

“UNITE HERE has been engaged in this process since the outset. We obtained party status in order to share the economic and planning evidence we have relevant to the proposed redevelopment with the Tribunal, which we will present in October,” said Nuredin Bulle, UNITE HERE Local 75. “Our research verifies that the potential loss of nearly 1200 rooms in the downtown core will have a detrimental impact on Toronto’s ability to host visitors, particularly in the highly competitive and economically lucrative meeting and convention industry.”

UNITE HERE Local 75 engaged urbanMetrics Inc, a firm with expertise in market research and land economics, to conduct an independent analysis of the travel and accommodation industry within the city, including travel industry market trends, economic impact of visitor-related spending, hotel market data, and hotel-related employment in the region. The analysis clearly indicates that hotels are essential in supporting Toronto as a major travel destination and that convention and business visitors are important contributors to the local economy. Specifically, the urbanMetrics study has found that:

  • Overnight visitors spend significantly more than same day visitors. In 2016, overnight visitors to the area spent more than $6.4 billion, or 80 per cent, of the $8.0 billion in total visitor spending, almost $1.4 billion of which was spent on accommodation.
  • In 2016, 1 in 5 overnight visitors to the region were convention and business visitors and more than 1.4 million convention and business overnight visitors spent over 3.7 million nights in a hotel located in the region.
  • Convention and business visitors spend 1.5 times the average spending per visitor than any other type of visitor. In 2016, convention and business visitors spent $1.92 billion in the region, with 89 per cent of this spending coming from overnight visitors.
  • In 2016, total visitor spending in the region stimulated ±$6.1 billion in total economic output, supported more than ±77,880 full-time years of employment, generated total labour income of ±$3.7 billion annually, and generated total government revenues of an estimated ±$2.4 billion in total taxes.

“The urbanMetrics’ analysis should serve as a wake-up call for city officials and everyone involved in Toronto’s tourism and hospitality sector, particularly if Toronto is to stay competitive with other major cities in Canada and across North America,” added Bulle. “UNITE HERE is optimistic the LPAT will review our evidence and recognize that the dangerous trend of hotel conversions in downtown cores cannot continue. The Chelsea Hotel is an immediate opportunity for decision-makers to demonstrate their commitment to sustaining Toronto as a premiere tourist and convention destination.”

About UNITE HERE
UNITE HERE is the strongest hotel union in North America with more than 270,000 members, the vast majority of whom are hospitality workers. UNITE HERE Local 75 represents nearly 8,000 hospitality workers at 43 hotels in the GTA, including workers at the Chelsea Hotel.

Media Contact
Colleen Ryan
cryan@sussex-strategy.com
647-232-6867

Fairmont Royal York Hotel Workers Ratify Historic New Collective Agreement

Toronto, Ontario, June 15, 2018 – Members of UNITE HERE Local 75 ratified a new collective agreement with the Fairmont Royal York Hotel Friday that represents the strongest agreement in Toronto’s hospitality sector. The four-year contract makes Fairmont Royal York workers the highest paid hotel workers in the GTA by far and includes a 14.5% wage increase and a retroactive bonus, more than triples pension contributions, significantly reduces housekeepers’ workloads, and substantiality increases retirement and other paid benefits for all workers.

“With the 3% retro we won, I’ll be taking home a bonus of more than $1,000 right away. This agreement is going to be huge for my family,” said Kattia Delgado, a room attendant and member of the UNITE HERE Local 75 Negotiating Committee at the Fairmont Royal York.

“This agreement is the result of months of hard work and thousands of conversations about the future we want for ourselves and our families. With the support of our sisters and brothers across the labour movement, we pushed hard for what we deserve, and hotel management heard us loud and clear. We are stronger than ever and it has paid off for us today,” said Arley Da Silva, a banquet server and member of the UNITE HERE Local 75 Negotiating Committee at the Fairmont Royal York. Over 1,000 Canadian labour leaders and members of the Canadian Labour Congress participated in a rally in support of the workers.

The new four-year contract includes, among other improvements:

  • 3% retroactive bonus from July 17, 2017 through April 29, 2018.
  • 14.5% wage increase over the four-year agreement
  • More than tripled pension contributions, with an increase of 54 cents per hour
  • Maintained and increased excellent health benefits
  • Reduced housekeeper room assignments to 14 rooms per day, the best standard in Canada

“After months of bargaining, we have reached a deal that significantly increases our pay, improves our benefits and pensions, and addresses workload issues. UNITE HERE’s extensive experience in the hospitality sector was key in us settling a contract that is the best hotel workers contract in the city, and one of the best in the country,” said Gary Ing, a 30-year bartender and member of the UNITE HERE Local 75 Negotiating Committee at the Fairmont Royal York.

UNITE HERE is a labour union representing 270,000 hospitality workers across North America. An affiliate of the largest hotel workers union in the world, UNITE HERE Local 75 represents nearly 8,000 hospitality workers at 43 hotels in the Greater Toronto Area, including nearly 1,000 workers at the Fairmont Royal York.

Media Contact
Colleen Ryan
647-232-6867

Hotel Workers at the Four Points by Sheraton Vote to Stay with UNITE HERE Local 75

With nearly 8,000 members, UNITE HERE Local 75 remains strongest, largest representative of hotel workers in the GTA

Toronto, Ontario (April 12, 2018) – The Ontario Labour Relations Board counted the votes from a sealed ballot box at the Four Points by Sheraton today, revealing that hotel workers voted to remain with UNITE HERE Local 75, the largest representative of hotel workers in the GTA.

“UNITE HERE members have built Local 75 from the ground up and we are delighted that our sisters and brothers at the Four Points decided to stick together. We know that being part of the largest hotel workers union is why we have the strongest contracts. We have fought hard to earn the respect and benefits we deserve and we’re not willing to walk away from that,” said Vemelyn Feliciano, a room attendant at the Adelaide Hotel.

Earlier this year, Unifor attempted to raid half of the 48 hotels represented by UNITE HERE Local 75. Out of those 24 hotels, 18 chose to stay with UNITE HERE Local 75, and five voted to try Unifor. UNITE HERE Local 75 continues to represent the vast majority of hotel workers in the region.

“UNITE HERE Local 75 has emerged from the past few months stronger and more united than ever before. We also know we have the full support of the Canadian labour movement, demonstrated by the more than 1,000 labour leaders and members who attended a recent Unity Rally in support of our members at the Fairmont Royal York. We’re focused on upcoming bargaining and negotiating even stronger contracts for workers and our families,” said Rik Hockley, a banquet server at the Novotel Toronto Centre.

The ballot box had been sealed by the Ontario Labour Relations Board in response to workers who submitted requests to have their names removed from Unifor’s petitions.

“Unifor’s campaign to bully workers into signing with them was a gross attempt to seize power on the backs of working people. This sad episode is now behind us and we’re putting our focus where it belongs—standing together as one labour movement fighting for the best contracts for Toronto hotel workers,” said Kayann Drummond, a guest services agent at the Sheraton Centre.

UNITE HERE remains the strongest hotel union in North America, with the vast majority of its membership being hospitality workers. UNITE HERE Local 75 continues to represent nearly 8,000 hospitality workers, including workers at 43 hotels in the GTA.

Media Contact
Colleen Ryan
cryan@sussex-strategy.com
647-232-6867

Over 1,000 Canadian labour leaders, members and supporters attend Unity Rally in support of UNITE HERE Local 75 workers at historic Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Toronto, Ontario, March 26, 2018 – The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and dozens of its union affiliates put the weight of the Canadian labour movement behind UNITE HERE Local 75 at a Unity Rally at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Monday, March 26, 2018.

More than 1,000 Canadian labour leaders, members and supporters came out in a show of solidarity for the nearly 900 UNITE HERE Local 75 workers currently negotiating a new collective agreement with the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

“Knowing our union is backed by the 3.3 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress fortifies us as we move forward in negotiating an improved contract. We are stronger just knowing they have our back,” said Cicely Phillips, a room attendant and member of the UNITE HERE Local 75 Negotiating Committee at the Fairmont Royal York.

The CLC is the largest labour organization in Canada, representing over 3 million workers and bringing together Canada’s national, international, and provincial unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 107 district labour councils, whose members work in virtually all sectors of the Canadian economy, in all occupations, in all parts of Canada. Dozens of other CLC affiliates joined UNITE HERE Local 75 and the CLC at the Unity Rally.

“As members of UNITE HERE! Local 75, Royal York workers truly understand that there is strength in numbers. That is the same principle that binds workers together in strength and solidarity through the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Now, as you bargain with your employer, you have the weight of Canada’s labour movement behind you,” said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff.

UNITE HERE Local 75 is currently in contract negotiations with the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and is seeking to strengthen benefits and pensions, redress unbearable workloads, and raise wages for workers at the hotel, among other improvements.

“UNITE HERE is proud to stand united with our sisters and brothers across the Canadian labour movement. This movement shows the type of true solidarity that workers need to win what they deserve—at the Fairmont Royal York, throughout the GTA, and around the globe,” said UNITE HERE International President D Taylor.

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About UNITE HERE

UNITE HERE is a labor union representing 270,000 hospitality workers across Canada and the United States. An affiliate of the largest hotel workers union in the world, UNITE HERE Local 75 represents nearly 8,000 hospitality workers at 43 hotels in the Greater Toronto Area.

Media Contact:

Colleen Ryan
647-232-6867

An Open Letter from Former UNITE HERE Local 75 Executive Board Members to the Wider Labour Movement

We represent two-thirds of UNITE HERE Local 75’s former Executive Board. We came to Canada from many different countries to build a better life for ourselves and our families. We are room attendants, servers, cooks, cleaners, stewards, cafeteria workers, and guest service agents. Local 75 is our home and UNITE HERE is our family. The corporations our union goes up against are international and so too, is our union and our struggle.

Our home at Local 75 is strong. It was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of our members. We believe the diversity of our membership has always been our strength, so it hurts us when a “nationalist” message is used to divide us and to damage the home we built together.

We have always tried to resolve issues locally, but our former local president Lis Pimentel made it impossible this time. For over a year, our local had been embroiled in a debilitating internal conflict due to Ms. Pimentel’s leadership—a conflict based on serious allegations of abuse of power and racism. In April 2017, 17 out of 25 elected Executive Board members and officers exercised our rights under UNITE HERE’s constitution and asked our General President D. Taylor to trustee our local.

Instead of immediately granting our request for trusteeship, President Taylor made every attempt to resolve the dispute at the local level. We were placed under voluntary supervision in May 2017 to try to avoid trusteeship. In July 2017 we believed that the Local Executive had taken meaningful steps to resolve our issues. We had all agreed, including Ms. Pimentel, to make a joint statement of unity and to tell our members about the positive steps we had taken to move forward.

Five days later, at a general membership meeting, Ms. Pimentel reneged on the agreement. She continued to abuse her power and failed to recognize us as the governing body of our local. She dismissed us and silenced us, cutting us out of important decisions that affected our local in violation of our bylaws. She was especially dismissive of our Black officers Nuredin Bulle and Valrie Lue who came from the rank-and-file. Allegations of harassment and bullying of Black staff were rampant in the workplace—sadly, Local 75 became divided along racial lines.

This is not about an “American invasion” of Canadian workers. In fact, our former President Lis Pimentel, an American herself, had numerous opportunities to avoid trusteeship.

We want to underscore that the trusteeship was not imposed on Local 75.  Our local was in turmoil and we requested trusteeship because it was our only hope to move forward.

We want Unifor’s leadership to know that we are saddened that you have chosen to work with Ms. Pimentel to raid our local. You are hurting the rank-and-file leaders and members who put years of their lives and devotion into building our home and protecting hospitality workers.

Even though Ms. Pimentel and Unifor are attacking our Local 75 family with full force, we, the worker leaders, will protect our union against this raid. We hope that Unifor and its members will finally see the truth about our local and its struggles.

Together with the wider labour movement, we will move forward and continue to fight for workers to have a voice in the organizations we have built.

Our union has come through this struggle more than 7,500 members strong and ready to fight for the best contracts for hotel workers and our families across the GTA in 2018.

Sincerely,

Nuredin Bulle, UNITE HERE Local 75
Valrie Lue, UNITE HERE Local 75
Habtom Ogbamichael, Sheraton Centre
Lloyd Manning, Radisson Suite Hotel Toronto Airport
Ianka Stoyanova, Holiday Inn on Bloor
Sami Hana, Old Mill
Christine Smalling, Hilton Toronto Airport
Colin Frances, Upper Canada College, Food Service
Yohannes Habte, Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre
Josh Cuasay, One King West
Rik Hockley, Novotel Toronto Centre
Kayann Drummond, Sheraton Centre
Maria Richards, Delta Hotels by Marriott Toronto East
Nigel Blair, York University, Food Service
Abdalla Idris, Chelsea Hotel Toronto
Avanell Johnson, Fairmont Royal York
Froilan De Guzman, Sandman Signature Toronto Airport Hotel
Medhin Ghebre, Chelsea Hotel Toronto
Yosief Ogbasellasie (trustee), Sheraton Centre

Hotel Workers Vote to Stay With UNITE HERE Local 75; Take Unifor to Task for Bullying and Intimidation Tactics

With nearly 8,000 members, UNITE HERE Local 75 remains strongest, largest representative of hotel workers in the GTA

Toronto, Ontario – Hotel workers at 17 hotels around the GTA have decided to remain with UNITE HERE Local 75 on the heels of raiding efforts by Unifor, including the Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites and the Hilton Toronto who both voted overwhelmingly in favour of UNITE HERE today. Hundreds of hotel workers have also filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board to have their signatures revoked from Unifor petitions as a result of feeling bullied and misled in the raiding efforts.

“Thousands of UNITE HERE members decided to stay with the strongest hotel union in the world because they know there is strength in numbers and that solidarity means greater bargaining power and better benefits. We fought to protect our hard-earned contracts in the face of bullying tactics on the part of Unifor,” said Vemelyn Feliciano, a room attendant and Shop Steward at the Adelaide Hotel.

Over the last three weeks, hotel workers around the GTA were pressured by Unifor to sign petitions to leave UNITE HERE Local 75 and join Unifor. Hotel workers are now raising concerns with the Ontario Labour Relations Board about Unifor’s tactics and bullying in the workplace. This has led to questions about the validity of Unifor’s petitions and the sealing of several ballot boxes by the Ontario Labour Relations Board following workplace votes.

Of the 48 hotel properties represented by UNITE HERE Local 75 in the GTA, Unifor attempted to raid 24 hotels. Out of those 24 hotels, 17 decided to stay with UNITE HERE Local 75, four chose Unifor, and three ballot boxes are yet to be counted pending the outcomes of hearings by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

“The height of hypocrisy is Unifor accusing UNITE HERE of ignoring democracy when their entire set of actions have been to mislead and deceive workers in a blatant power grab,” added Kayann Drummond, a guest services agent at the Sheraton Centre.

“I’ve been part of building Local 75 as the strongest hotel worker union in Toronto for the last 27 years. We chose to stay with UNITE HERE because that’s best for our families and our future. Unifor’s attempt to break us down and lower our working standards through intimidation and fear is beyond shameful. I am proud to stand up for my coworkers and our right to fair working conditions and pay,” said Medhin Ghebre, a room attendant at the Chelsea Hotel.

UNITE HERE remains the strongest hotel union in North America, with the vast majority of its membership being hospitality workers, including workers at nearly four dozen hotels in the GTA. By comparison, Unifor has less than 3% of its members working in the hospitality industry.

“I’m so proud that my coworkers and fellow UNITE HERE Local 75 members chose to stick together and defend our rights as a union. It shows the courage and strength of working people. We have sacrificed too much to allow our union to move backwards,” said Rik Hockley, a banquet server at the Novotel Toronto Centre.

UNITE HERE Local 75 continues to represent nearly 8,000 hospitality workers, including workers at 44 hotels in the GTA.

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Media Contact:
Colleen Ryan
647-232-6867